Publishing News: Week in Review

An open question on libraries, aggregators try not to step on publishers' toes, and Apple makes a curious move.

Here’s what caught my attention in this week’s publishing news. (Note: These stories were published here on Radar throughout the week.)

Would reading be where it is today if it weren’t for libraries?

questionmarkI might not know who Nancy Drew is if it weren’t for libraries. Granted, I ended up buying most of the series — or rather, my parents did — but the library was the discovery zone. It still works like that for me today; I now own three Richard Russo books because of the library.

Libraries have been a part of most of our lives in one way or another, yet they are in a constant struggle for funding. Jerry Brown, the governor of California, is proposing a budget that would pull back all state funding for libraries. Some libraries, such as the Butler Public Library in Indiana, are thinking out of the box to raise funding (see the banner at the top of their site). And the struggle isn’t only in the United States.

With libraries around the world in such financial jeopardy, a couple of questions come to mind:

  • What purpose (if any) has a library served for you?
  • If libraries ceased to exist, what would the ramifications be?
  • Do libraries help or hurt publishing?

To chime in, share your thoughts in the comments area of this post.

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Aggregation app developers are getting Zen with consumers, but what about publishers?

Companies are finally starting to see that consumers of news crave a platform that will bring them what they want to read, anytime they want to read it, and exactly how they want to read it (we’re a demanding lot). To that end, there recently has been something of an influx of news-aggregating apps. Flipboard, of course, was the iPad app of the year in 2010. It gathers news by aggregating links from a user’s social media platforms — Twitter, Google Reader, Facebook — and redisplays the content in one place, all nice and pretty.

Flipboard and Instapaper

AOL has announced a competing app, AOL Editions, that will work similarly to Flipboard, but will gather the news based on a user’s interests through category rankings (like a hyper-personalized Newser?). Sobees launched yet another product, NewsMix, that aggregates the same way as Flipboard. These are just a few, and all are for the iPad. I’m not sure I want my Facebook friends’ comments alongside my daily nosh of news, but that’s where we’re headed.

There’s some argument that these types of aggregators come very close to stepping on the toes of publishers’ intellectual property rights. This may be especially true when they team up with ad stripping software — like the platform just announced by Readability and Instapaper. This platform tries to make things equitable by giving publishers a percentage of monthly fees. But will publishers think that’s enough?

What the heck is Apple doing now?

In the wake of Apple’s rejection of the Sony Reader app, speculations abound as to what it all means and what next steps app companies might take. In the case specifically of ereaders, many are waiting for the Amazon app to fall victim to this same policy (a policy that Apple says isn’t new).

O’Reilly’s Joe Wikert has some advice for Amazon should the shake up head their way: adhere to the in-app purchase rules, but make yourself more attractive than the other guy.

Liza Daly, owner and president of Threepress Consulting, Inc., thinks the whole situation points to the increased importance of an HTML5-based ereader. Granted, her company developed Ibis Reader — an HTML5-based reader. (The system is pretty slick, and with the increased experimentation with books in the cloud, it may just be the next big thing.)

European publishers don’t know what to make of Apple’s latest move and have scheduled a summit in London on Feb. 17 to discuss the situation. The meeting includes newspaper publishers as well, who are feeling particularly “betrayed” by the in-app purchasing policy, as it will directly affect their iPad subscription platforms, and not in a good way.

Whatever it is that Apple is doing — and no one is quite certain of that yet — everyone seems to agree that it’s a game changer. Just what game it’s changing remains to be seen.

Got news?

News tips and suggestions are always welcome, so please send them along.


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